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6 amazing inventions of Leonardo da Vinci that were ahead of their time
6 amazing inventions of Leonardo da Vinci that were ahead of their time

It is a shame that the artist's patrons spent more money on futile wars than on technological progress.

6 amazing inventions of Leonardo da Vinci that were ahead of their time
6 amazing inventions of Leonardo da Vinci that were ahead of their time

1. Diving suit made of genuine pigskin

Diving suit made of genuine pigskin
Diving suit made of genuine pigskin

For some time, da Vinci lived in Venice. And the Ottoman Empire sharpened its teeth on this city for a long time - and its fleet was more than frightening. You understand that Venetian gondoliers on their fragile vessels would hardly have fought off such tough guys with oars.

Da Vinci happily offered his services as a military consultant and engineer to the city government. The artist invented an incredible device for the 15th century - a diving suit, or "spacesuit" (Italian scafandro).

It was made of leather, reinforced with steel rings to resist water pressure, and was supplied with a breathing mask with glass eyepieces.

There were two variants of the spacesuit: with bottles like wine bottles, where it was supposed to hold a supply of air, and with reed tubes that stuck out on the surface. How to inject air into bottles without a device for compressing it (only Benoit Rouqueirol in 1866 would come up with it), da Vinci somehow did not think.

But the suit was additionally equipped with an air bubble. With its help, it was possible to regulate the level of buoyancy and dive to the bottom or float up if necessary.

Modern replica of da Vinci's spacesuit
Modern replica of da Vinci's spacesuit

Leo described the use of this unit in his collection Codex Arundel. It was assumed that a detachment of Venetian fur seals would put on spacesuits, swim up to Turkish warships and pierce their bottoms. The Turks with pitiful cries will sink, and the Republic of Venice will be saved. Everyone is happy.

Unfortunately, the Venice magistrate did not appreciate the project, and its members, after consulting, issued something like: "You know, we decided to try negotiations here." As a result, the detachments of the Italian naval special forces were not formed, they made peace with the Turks on their terms, and the glory of the inventor of the world's first scuba gear went to Auguste Deneiruse only in the 19th century.

2. Tactical battle tank made of wood

Leonardo da Vinci's inventions: a tactical battle tank made of wood
Leonardo da Vinci's inventions: a tactical battle tank made of wood

When Leo asked to serve the Duke Ludovico Sforza in 1487, he dashed off a resume free from false modesty. Among other things, he promised his lordship there to build no less than a tank.

In addition, I can make carriages covered with iron, safe, reliable and unapproachable; equipped with cannons, they whirlwind crash into the closed ranks of the enemy, and no army, no matter how well armed, could not resist them.

Leonardo da Vinci Letter to Duke Ludovico Sforza, 1482.

By the wagon, da Vinci meant the world's first tank. It was designed to be round (the design was inspired by the shell of a turtle) and was assembled from heavy wooden planks, sheathed with iron for protection from firearms.

Around the circumference of the mighty war machine, there were loopholes with light cannons to fire the battlefield 360 °. The tank had no bottom - the crew had to walk. Already in the 15th century, Leo foresaw that a sedentary lifestyle would not lead to good.

Inside it was possible to shove up to eight people who served as gun operators, and two more mechanics. The latter turned the shafts that set in motion the four wheels of this unit.

For a second: these athletes, due to their biceps alone, had to carry 2-3 dozen light bronze cannons across rough terrain, ammunition for them and this car itself, which also weighed so decently.

What muscular effort they were supposed to develop, Leonardo did not take into account. Of course, because he is an engineer, strategist and creates a general concept, and let people with muscles deal with more specific details.

Sforza looked at this unstoppable killing machine, said, "Leo, it looks cool, but let's do it later." And the project remained on paper.

When enthusiasts reproduced a scaled-down model of the tank in 2010, they discovered that da Vinci had misrepresented the gear train in the drawing. As a result, the front and rear wheels rotate in different directions. So no matter how twisted the shafts, the armored vehicle will skid on the spot.

Fans of the inventor believe that Leo specially designed the apparatus so that enemy spies who stole the schemes could not reproduce this destroyer in working order. Others believe that da Vinci was simply wrong.

3. Helicopter with a rotor made of starched matter

Leonardo da Vinci's inventions: a helicopter with a starched rotor
Leonardo da Vinci's inventions: a helicopter with a starched rotor

Strictly speaking, Leonardo did not come up with the principle of operation of this contraption. This rotating circular spiral is the so-called Archimedean screw. It is believed that a scientist invented it around 250 BC. NS. The screw was used by the Greeks and Romans to lift water uphill through inclined pipes.

However, apparently, it was Leonardo who was the first in Europe to figure out that the Archimedean device would also work in the air. In 1493 he created 1.

2. a project of a flying machine that looks like a helicopter or, rather, an autogyro. The screw diameter of this unit would be 4 meters.

Leonardo noted in the comments to the sketch that the screw should be made of starched linen fabric supported by wire on a reed frame. Moreover, there is evidence that he created a reduced model of the device and made it rise into the air, but it has not survived to this day.

Approximately the same toys, by the way, were made by the Chinese in the Jin Empire in 320 AD. NS. They took a stick, planted a flat piece of bamboo on it, spun it like a propeller, and let it go into uncontrolled flight. It is called zhuqinging, or "bamboo dragonfly".

But on Leonardo's path to flight, one difficulty arose. It was assumed that the propeller of the machine would be rotated by four people, for whom a prudent engineer installed the handles around the central axis of the rotor.

The catch is that even the toughest runners in Italy would not be able to zip around the pole at 200 rpm to get the apparatus up in the air. In general, the same problem as with the tank.

The crew simply would not have enough strength to set the device in motion, and the internal combustion engines have not yet been delivered.

There is also one small, purely constructive problem. Leonardo's helicopter is badly lacking a tail rotor. Without it, even if the apparatus could rise into the air, its body would rotate in the opposite direction from the rotor.

So here it is necessary to pile up the tail rotor on the beam. Or attach a second one, mirrored over the rag spiral, to compensate for the rotational moment, as on some Ka-52. Leo, apparently, somehow did not think about it.

Ball bearing Leonardo da Vinci
Ball bearing Leonardo da Vinci

But there was also some practical benefit from the helicopter. While trying to attach the rotor axle to the body of the unit, da Vinci accidentally invented a completely modern ball bearing. True, I did not think of patenting it.

Therefore, formally, the creator of this part, used in a variety of mechanisms, is the Welshman Philip Vaughan, who secured the development in 1791.

4. A parachute that can also serve as a tent

Leonardo da Vinci's inventions: a parachute that can also serve as a tent
Leonardo da Vinci's inventions: a parachute that can also serve as a tent

What if during the flight the crew gets tired of turning the shaft and the apparatus starts to fall? Leonardo has foreseen everything. You just need to leave the car in the air by jumping out with a parachute.

The Italian artist invented a device for a safe fall from a height more than 300 years before it occurred to the official creator of the parachute - the French inventor Sebastian Lenormand.

If a person has a tent made of starched linen, each side of which is 12 cubits (about 6.5 m) wide and the same height, he can throw himself down from any height without putting himself in the slightest danger.

Leonardo da Vinci "Atlantic Code".

Indeed, the device looks like a tent. If you stick a pole in the middle to keep in shape, you can take shelter there even from the rain.

On June 26, 2000, British aeronaut Adrian Nicholas made an exact copy of da Vinci's parachute, climbed 3 kilometers in a hot air balloon and jumped. And what do you think - it worked! This kamikaze quite confidently flew most of the descent on Leonardo's invention.

True, at around 600 meters, Nicholas cut the lines and made the rest of the way on a modern parachute.

The fact is that, mentioning the absence of "the slightest danger" in his notes, Leonardo twisted his soul a little. His design, made of boards and canvas, weighed about 84 kilograms. If such a thing gets covered when landing, even the most experienced paratrooper will not do without injuries.

5. Spring-loaded car

Spring-driven vehicle
Spring-driven vehicle

Apparently, at some point, Leonardo decided that tanks and helicopters that operate on lever and pedal traction would not go far. After all, a car should carry a person, not the other way around.

It remained to figure out how to give the apparatus a power reserve. There was no gasoline or steam engine at hand, and if you mount a horse or a donkey (natural engines running on hay) in it, it will turn out to be a simple cart, no intrigue. But Leonardo found a way to create a truly autonomous system 1.


Into the cart we insert a pair of very tightly wound spiral springs in special drums - in da Vinci's diaries he mentioned that one spring would be enough, but he placed two symmetrical ones for the sake of "pleasing to the eye harmony." We take out the brake lever. The springs begin to unwind, the wheels rotate through a simple gear, and our car drives forward.

Leonardo invented not only the spring motor, but also the first autopilot in history! How do you like that, Elon Musk?

A sophisticated mechanical system, consisting of a differential, flywheel and balance wheel, could keep the car's course consistently straight, even when it was traveling without a driver.

We turn the device in the desired direction, load it with something useful, release the brake - and the device leaves on its own. At the destination, we press the brake again, pick up the cargo, insert fresh cocked metal spirals, and the unmanned spring car sets off on its way back.

Such an unmanned unit has several advantages over modern Tesla electric cars.

Firstly, environmental friendliness: energy is stored in steel springs, not in lithium-ion batteries, and there are no problems with disposal of toxic substances from used batteries.

Secondly, such machines do not require complex infrastructure. Springs can be wound up with the muscular power of a simple donkey running on hay and oats, and do without solar panels, wind turbines and hydroelectric power plants.

But the spring car also has minor drawbacks. Its autopilot is able to maintain the trajectory of movement, but it does not know how to brake or turn, which somewhat complicates the practical application of the mechanism.

In addition, enthusiasts faithfully reproduced Leonardo's design and found that the car's power reserve is approximately 40 meters, which is slightly inferior to the same Tesla and even more so to cars with an internal combustion engine.

But if you carry with you a large supply of ready-made springs, a mechanism for cocking them and a donkey so that the animal rotates it, you can significantly increase the travel distance. In theory.

In the process of developing the car, by the way, Leonardo came up with such a useful thing as a continuously variable transmission, or a toroidal variator. Da Vinci put three different gears on a common shaft, and he was able to change the speed of rotation as needed.

In 1886, the design was patented by a certain Milton Reeves and is now successfully used in cars, bicycles, milling saws and many other places.

6. The first ever self-defense canister

Leonardo da Vinci's inventions: a gas canister for self-defense
Leonardo da Vinci's inventions: a gas canister for self-defense

In his treatise On Incense, Stinking Substances, and Poisons, Leo mentioned the following recipe.

Take human feces and urine, stinking quinoa, if you don't have cabbage and beets, and put them together in a glass jar, well sealed, and keep it under manure for a month, then throw it where you want to make a stench, so that it breaks.

Leonardo da Vinci "On incense, stinking substances and poisons."

Looks like a great tool against stray dogs and street bullies. If you are attacked, remove the shell prepared in this way from your inner pocket and forcefully throw it under the attacker's feet.

The main thing is to choose an opaque bottle. So that acquaintances who accidentally notice it, do not look at the contents. Otherwise, you will be considered strange.